Maryland has taken great pride in the state's leadership in health care. Thus, it seems out of character that Maryland still has not joined the vast majority of states in allowing consumers to receive a wide range of Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended vaccines from their local qualified pharmacist. Maryland law limits the authority for pharmacists to administer only three vaccines.

Maryland lags behind all our neighboring states, except West Virginia, in that respect. In fact, more than 30 states have adopted this approach, which is convenient for customers and saves money. It is unfortunate that the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee has voted against House Bill 561, which would bring Maryland into parity with our neighboring states and the rest of the country.

Research has shown that every $1 spent on immunizations saves $6.30 in direct costs. This amounts to annual aggregate direct cost savings of $10.5 billion. When indirect costs (such as lost wages) are taken into account, every $1 spent on immunizations saves $18.40, resulting in aggregate savings of $42 billion. We also know that under the current authority to administer flu vaccines, rates increase up to 5 percent for those under 65 and over 10 percent for seniors when pharmacists are allowed to administer vaccination. The new law to permit pharmacists to administer this vaccine to persons between the ages of 9 and 18 years old has resulted in thousands of Marylanders getting their flu shots.

With more than 1,200 drug stores throughout Maryland, and many with 24/7 service, consumers have access to trained professionals to receive their vaccinations. By expanding the list of authorized pharmacist administered vaccines, children starting school will be able to meet the vaccination requirements more conveniently and quickly. In addition, pharmacist immunizations increase accessibility to vaccines for Americans living in medically underserved areas and health professional shortage areas. Over a third of the flu vaccine is administered by pharmacists in these areas.

There is still hope. A Senate version of the legislation is still pending.

Patrick Donoho, Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland Retailers Association.